The human olfactory system: Cortical brain mapping using fMRI


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive and convenient method of mapping brain activity associated with the human sensory systems. Among these systems there is a lack of data from olfactory studies, which could be attributed to technical difficulties in odor delivery during scanning. The current study took advantage of an olfactometer to evaluate brain activity during the odor-smelling process.


This study aimed to investigate the brain regions of the human olfactory system via fMRI brain imaging. A speculative survey was used to highlight the differences between studies conducted in healthy populations using olfactory tasks, as well as conducting literature survey in terms of the technical principles applying through these tasks in fMRI studies.

Subjects and Methods:

A functional map of the olfactory system that used a block design, alternating between odor and non-odor phases, was examined in 15 healthy volunteers. The general linear model was used to identify statistically significant voxels that showed activation during the activation blocks.


Primary and secondary olfactory regions, including the piriformis, insula, amygdala, parahippocampal gyrus, caudate nucleus, inferior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, and cerebellum, demonstrated significant activation in response to odor stimulation.Conclusion: Activation of the aforementioned brain areas, and the pattern of activation, is largely in accordance with previous published olfactory studies carried out in healthy individuals.

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